State Must Pay Legal Fees In School Funding Suit, Virgin Galactic Moving Personnel To Spaceport

May 10, 2019

New Mexico Ordered To Pay Legal Fees School Funding LawsuitSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A judge has ordered New Mexico to pay more than $312,000 in legal expenses to a second group involved in the lawsuit over whether the state's funding for public schools is adequate.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Judge Sarah Singleton ordered the payment Thursday after ordering the state last week pay more than $116,000 for another group's legal expenses.

Advocacy groups and school districts sued in 2014, claiming the state failed to meet constitutional obligations to provide a sufficient education for all students.

The judge ruled last year that the state must do more to fulfill those obligations, leading increased school funding.

The groups in March had requested $450,000 from the state.

Attorneys for the state claimed some of the costs were excessive or unnecessary.

represent Douglas yet.

WWII-Era Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye Sr. Dies At 97Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has announced that World War II-era Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye Sr. has died.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says Begaye died Friday in Chinle, Arizona. He was 97.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Begaye was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the Marine Corps, using a code based on their native language to outsmart the Japanese.

According to the Navajo Nation, Begaye served as a Code Talker from 1943 to 1945 and fought in the Battle of Tarawa and the Batter of Tinian. He spent a year in a naval hospital after being wounded.

Begaye later ran a general store in Chinle.

President Donald Trump honored Begaye and two other Navajo Code Talkers at the White House in November 2017.

500 Migrants Arrested In New Mexico In 24 HoursAssociated Press

Another 500 migrants have been taken into custody in less than 24 hours along the border in southern New Mexico.

The U.S. Border Patrol says a group of 218 migrants from Central America was spotted at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry after midnight Thursday. A second group of 302 people was reported before midnight just east of Mount Cristo Rey near Sunland Park.

The agency says the migrants were taken into custody and provided medically screening.

Authorities say the El Paso sector, which includes part of West Texas and all of New Mexico, documented over 1,700 apprehensions on Thursday.

Officials say this fiscal year to date the El Paso Sector has arrested more than 109,000 migrants, compared to over 14,000 during the same time last fiscal year.

Navajo Activist Celebrates Attention Given Murdered Women Associated Press

Debbie Nez-Manuel was 3 years old when her mother disappeared from their home on the Navajo Nation. She turned up dead a few weeks later about an hour's drive away in Gallup.

So Nez-Manuel was overjoyed more than four decades later when the Arizona House of Representatives agreed this week to study the problem of Native American women who have gone missing or been killed. She said it felts like an early Mother's Day present for her mom she never knew.

The national campaign to identify cases of Native American women and girls who have been killed or gone missing has gained momentum in recent months with a string of similar state and federal legislation, marches and a series of stories by The Associated Press.

Mayor Vows Coordinated Push Against Albuquerque CrimeAssociated Press

Mayor Tim Keller says drugs, guns, gangs and domestic violence are fueling crime in Albuquerque, where the shooting death of a University of New Mexico athlete became the latest high-profile killing to shake the city.

Keller and other officials vowed Friday to crack down on crime. Deputy Chief Robert Thornton of New Mexico State Police also said his agency would assign 50 officers to help boost law enforcement's presence in the city.

The announcement came as police searched for 23-year-old Darian Bashir, who was identified in an arrest warrant as the man suspected of shooting UNM baseball player Jackson Weller.

Weller was gunned down last Saturday after leaving a bar in an area popular among college students. Less than two weeks earlier, a postal worker was killed on his daily route in an Albuquerque neighborhood.

New Mexico County To Use Tax Money For Migrant ServicesAssociated Press

Elected leaders in New Mexico's most populous county are pledging $100,000 in behavioral health tax revenues to help asylum-seekers as officials in southern New Mexico are seeking more volunteers to help with the ongoing surge of migrants.

More than 100 migrants were released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Las Cruces on Friday, and city officials say the influx is straining resources.

They put out a call late Thursday, saying the need for fresh volunteers and donations was urgent.

In less than a month, about 4,200 migrants have been served in Las Cruces.

In Bernalillo County, officials plan to use the tax money to fund services, classes and resources for young migrants and their parents as they wait in Albuquerque before leaving to meet sponsors elsewhere in the U.S.

Virgin Galactic Enters 'Home Stretch' Of TestsAssociated Press

Virgin Galactic is not setting a launch date yet for its first commercial space tourism flight as it begins moving 100 personnel, a rocket ship and launch-support vehicle to a spaceport facility in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said Friday that an interior cabin is being tested for commercial operations and that a small, undisclosed number of test flights are pending.

Pilots are among the personnel moving from California to begin acclimating to flying conditions above the high desert in southern New Mexico.

Whitesides says the company is in the "home stretch" toward its first commercial space flight and declined to specify deadlines.

He joined Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson in thanking New Mexico politicians and residents for their patience and taxpayer investments in the Spaceport America hangar and launch facility.

Branson envisions a future with hotels in space and near-space transcontinental flights but cautioned that "we need the financial impetus to do all that."

Regents Approve $3B Budget For University Of New MexicoAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The board of the University of New Mexico has approved a $3.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year.

The Albuquerque Journal reports regents approved Thursday consolidated budgets for the university's Health Sciences Center, branches and main campus for the fiscal year that begins in July.

The budget is about 7% higher than the current budget. It includes a faculty and staff raise of 3% and a tuition increase of about 3.1%.

According to budget documents, about $2.2 billion will be directed for the Health Sciences Center. It expects to get $531 million in Medicaid revenue, $407 million from commercial insurance and $317 million from Medicare.

About $884 million has been budgeted for the university's main campus. The university's athletics program will have a $32.3 million budget.

New Mexico Warns No Swimming In Air Force Lake - Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health is warning people not to swim in or drink from Lake Holloman in southern New Mexico.

State officials say recent sampling showed high levels of hazardous chemicals known as per- and polyfluorinated compounds, or PFAS. Attorney General Hector Balderas on Thursday asked the U.S. Air Force to close the lake to the public.

Fed by treated wastewater from Holloman Air Force Base, the lake already is off limits to swimming but state officials reiterated their warning saying people should wash their hands if they get water or foam from the lake on them.

They also warned pet owners to avoid letting their animals drink or come into contact with the water or foam.

New Mexico Demands Closure Of Air Force Lake - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The state attorney general's office is demanding the U.S. Air Force close a publicly accessible lake in eastern New Mexico over contamination concerns.

In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Attorney General Hector Balderas says recent sampling shows the concentration of hazardous chemicals at Lake Holloman are dozens of times higher than federal health advisory levels.

The state already is preparing to sue the Air Force over groundwater contamination at two bases, arguing that the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities.

Similar contamination has been found at military sites across the nation, and growing evidence that exposure can be dangerous has prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider setting maximum levels for the chemicals in drinking water nationwide.

New Mexico Land Boss Concerned About Border Wall Work - Associated Press

The head of one of New Mexico's most powerful statewide offices is raising concerns about the lack of an environmental review as the U.S. government prepares to replace fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border in two counties.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard delivered her comments to U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday as fellow Democratic members of New Mexico's congressional delegation pushed for the comment period to be extended.

Aside from environmental concerns, Garcia Richard said her agency hasn't received any inquiries from federal officials regarding rights of way permits or easements required for accessing state trust lands adjacent to proposed construction areas.

The U.S. government plans to install 31 miles of bollard fencing in Luna County and another 15 miles in Doña Ana County.

Former CIA Operative And Trump Critic Runs For Congress - Associated Press

Former CIA operative Valerie Plame has decided to run for the Democratic nomination for an open congressional seat in New Mexico.

Plame told The Associated Press on Thursday that she wants to give back to a community that welcomed her after leaving Washington.

She joins a field of seasoned local politicians that are pursuing the nomination in a heavily Democratic district in the northern part of the state.

Plame, who lives in Santa Fe, became a national figure after her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush's administration in an effort to discredit her then-husband Joe Wilson.

Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice following the 2003 leak and pardoned by President Trump.

Report: New Mexico Man Charged After Online Threat To School - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A New Mexico man is facing federal charges after authorities say he posted an online threatening message about a high school.

The Gallup Independent reports Christopher Douglas was arrested this week on suspicion of transmitting communication containing a threat to injure a person after Gallup Police were notified about the threat.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court of New Mexico, the 30-year-old Douglas posted the threat Sunday on Facebook about Gallup High School.

The school, located in western New Mexico near the Navajo Nation, was placed on lockdown the next day.

Court records say Douglas acknowledged writing the post after he was arrested.

It was unclear if an attorney had been appointed to represent Douglas yet.

Monitor: Police Reform Has Progressed But Issues Persist - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The independent monitor overseeing the Albuquerque Police Department's reform efforts says progress has been made, but the department needs to work on investigating policy violations and use of force.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that monitor James Ginger in his report covering August 2018 to January 2019 found "palpable progress" under Mayor Tim Keller's administration.

The report says that Ginger's team has noticed "serious deficiencies" in oversight and accountability in reporting and investigating use of force.

Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says the department has developed new policies for use of force that it hopes will address some of the issues.

The report tracks the department's improvement in relation to the settlement agreement reached by the city and the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014.

Ex-Doña Ana County Doctor Gets Prison For Health Care Fraud - Associated Press

A former doctor in Doña Ana County has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for health care fraud and unlawfully dispensing controlled substances.

Prosecutors say 66-year-old Pawankumar Jain pleaded guilty in the case in 2016.

In his plea agreement, Jain admitted he operated a high-volume "pain management" practice in Las Cruces for several years.

Jain says he frequently performed only cursory examinations of patients before prescribing narcotics to them.

Prosecutors say Jain wrote two methadone prescriptions for a patient in 2009 that weren't for any legitimate medical purpose.

They say the patient died of respiratory depression two days after filling the second prescription for 270 tablets of 10 mg methadone.

The New Mexico Medical Board suspended Jain's license in June 2012 and revoked his license six months later.

New Mexico Has Plan For Assessing Damage At NASA Site - Associated Press

Officials have come up with a plan for quantifying the damage done by contamination at a site in southern New Mexico that once supported NASA's Apollo Space Program.

The New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee on Wednesday released the final damage assessment plan for the White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces.

It marks one step in a process aimed at restoring the site.

Officials say groundwater beneath the facility was contaminated when hazardous substances were disposed of and released during early NASA operations.

The site includes propulsion testing facilities for rocket systems and laboratories for testing the quality of space flight materials.

The trustee has authority to assess and recover damages from NASA and the U.S. Defense Department for the contamination and use the money for restoration work.

Woman Says Thieves Stole Her U-Haul With $7K Worth Of Beans - KOB-TV, Associated Press

A businesswoman attempting to make a delivery outside of Albuquerque says thieves rolled off in her U-Haul packed with thousands of dollars' worth of refried beans.

KOB-TV reports no arrests have been made in Monday's legume larceny outside of the Isleta Resort & Casino just south of Albuquerque.

Mary Jane Brown is the president of Mexicali Rose Instant Refried Beans and says she stayed at the Isleta Pueblo hotel because she was concerned about crime in Albuquerque.

But she says thieves still took off with her U-Haul containing nearly $7,000 worth of beans.

The company is based in Anthony, New Mexico, outside of El Paso, Texas.